Trailing 4-2 in the seventh inning, the McFarland High School softball team saw a ray of hope shine upon them as Morgan Butler blasted a solo homer over the right field fence to cut Monroe’s lead to one in the WIAA Division 2 softball sectional final game at Evansville.

All it needed was one more run to stay in the game and keep the season alive.

It didn’t happen.

Cheesmakers starter Olivia Bobak struck out Brooklyn Judd and Lizzie Fortune, and Megan Jansen hit a come backer to Bobak as the Spartans season filled with excitement and hope, especially in the final weeks, came to an end with a 4-3 defeat May 30. McFarland, which won nine of its last 10 games, including three in the postseason, ended with a record of 16-12. First-year head coach Lea Lackey said the team worked hard, and to come so close was heartbreaking.

“Everyone is pretty emotional, because we were right there,” Lackey said. “We thanked the seniors. They are the ones taking it the hardest right now. One run from going into state.”

Starting pitcher Jansen began strong with five strikeouts in the first three innings. In the fourth, the Spartans jumped on top as KJ LeFave was hit by a pitch and Erin Eggers walked. After Alanah Halsey struck and Alexcia Johnson sacrificed the runners to second and third, Butler blasted a deep fly ball to right field that popped in and out of the outfielder’s mitt. LeFave and Eggers both scored to put McFarland on top 2-0.

But the Spartans couldn’t hold the lead as Bobak led off the Monroe half of the fourth with a double. Jansen retired the next two Cheesemakers, but hit Sloane Ambrose with a pitch to put runners on first and second. Lizzie Snider lashed a single to score Bobak, and Sarah Prien came through with a two-run single to put Monroe ahead 3-2. Lackey said relinquishing the lead didn’t deflate the Spartans.

“We talked about how this team is going to score on us, and probably score a bunch. We had it in our heads they were going to score, and we had to score more,” Lackey said. “We were ready to score more, just not enough.”

Monroe added a run in the fifth as Sydney Updike singled with one out, stole second, reached third on a passed ball and scampered home on a groundout. The Cheesemakers nearly added another run in the sixth as Prien hit a double to left, and after some errant throws by McFarland, tried to score. But Eggers’ throw at third to Halsey at the plate cut down Prien to end the inning. As for Butler’s leadoff homer in the seventh, Lackey anticipated Butler was going to hit the ball far.

“I knew she was going to smoke it,” the coach said. “She was looking at me when she was up to bat, and with the quality of her swings, I knew she was going to hit it hard.”

Jansen struck out six and walked one on the circle and allowed seven Monroe hits. Shortstop LeFave said Jansen’s pitching was excellent, but she was beaten by a better-hitting team.

“Megan was spot on, and I couldn’t be more proud of her,” LeFave said. “She did amazing. But Monroe, you have to give it to them. They have very good bats. Megan wasn’t throwing off. They just have very good hitters.”

Despite trailing by two runs, Bobak had a no-hitter until Butler’s home run in the seventh. She finished with 11 strikeouts and a walk.

Spartans 8, Evansville 5

Halsey’s sixth inning home run broke a 5-5 tie and led the Spartans to a sectional semifinal win May 28 against visiting Evansville. The Spartans scored three runs in the first inning, but a four-run fifth inning gave the Blue Devils a 5-4 lead. McFarland came back to tie in the bottom of the fifth.

LeFave had three of the Spartans 10 hits and scored two runs.

Jansen struck out 10 and walked two to earn the complete game victory.

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